U.S. Kicks Off 10,000-Strong Drill in Eastern Europe

Soldiers of the U.S. Army 3rd squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment march as the troops of the "Dragoon Ride" military exercise arrive at their home base at Rose Barracks in the northeast Bavarian town of Vilseck, April 1, 2015. Michael Dalder/Reuters

The U.S. Army in Europe has kicked off an exercise that will see over 4,000 troops from NATO allies arrive in the Baltics and 10,000 soldiers from 13 countries across Eastern Europe.

The Baltic Saber Strike exercise, which launched on Friday, will run in conjunction with the U.S.-led Dragoon Ride, which will take 400 armored vehicles from Germany, through the Czech Republic, where it will stay until Monday. Then the troops move on to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and, finally, Estonia over the course of June.

The point of the exercise will be to test the ability of allies in Eastern Europe to work together—it will feature a series of practical tests of allied capabilities including live-fire, command post exercises, and training for cyber/electronic warfare. Its significance has been elevated in recent years as it is one of the main shows of collective force in the vicinity of Russia and Ukraine.

U.S. close-air support will provide cover for multinational ground forces during the course of the drill, while the U.S. 2nd Cavalry Regiment will perform the 2,200-kilometer tactical road march from Germany to Estonia, known as the Dragoon Ride.

The drill follows Estonia's annual Spring Storm exercise earlier this month, which featured 6,000 national and allied troops practicing joint defense maneuvers.

Saber Strike and the U.S.-led naval drills linked to Saber Strike called Baltops form part of the intense practice schedule for allied troops ahead of the NATO summit in Poland in July. The summit is intended to unite all NATO allies and allow them to coordinate their mutual strategy for the coming two years.